Cass County COA to host flu vaccination clinics

DOWAGIAC — The Van Buren Cass Health Department and the Cass County Council on Aging are teaming up to help protect area residents — particularly senior citizens — from the upcoming flu season.

Next week, the COA will be hosting two flu vaccine clinics. The first will be 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Howard Township Hall, 1345 Barron Lake Road, Niles. The second will be 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at Front Street Crossing, 227 S. Front St., Dowagiac. Cost is $41, or $70 for a high dose vaccine, which is recommended for adults 65 and older. The vaccine is covered by Medicare Part B and many other insurance companies. Though walk-ins are welcome, it is recommended that interested parties call the COA at (269) 445-8110 to schedule an appointment.

“We have done this at least 15 years, maybe even longer,” said Sandi Hoger, an organizer with the COA. “Getting the flu shot is very important for our community, and we like to provide an easy place for people to come and get it.”

Hoger said it is the mission of the COA to keep the Cass County community — and particularly the senior population healthy and active, which is why partnering with the health department on the flu vaccine clinic is a good fit for the organization.

“We provide a lot of programs and information and other ways to keep our seniors safe and healthy,” she said. “That is why we do.”

Medical Director for the Van Buren Cass Health Department Dr. Larry Wile said that the health department was grateful to the COA for partnering with them and helping to make flu shots more accessible to the general population.

“One of the missions of the health department is to promote health, and these clinics are a perfect opportunity to do that,” he said. “The flu is a preventable disease and the vaccination clinic can help build the health of the community and the population.”

Wile added that the partnership with the COA was also fortunate because the COA markets to the senior population, which is more susceptible to the flu and ensuing complications.

“Some groups that are more at risk for severe consequences of the flu are the elderly, the very young, newborns and infants, people that have compromised immune systems and people that have lung diseases,” he said. “Seniors’ immune systems are usually not as strong as they were when they were younger, so if they get the flu, it can be more serious or more lethal.”

The Center for Disease Control agrees that it is important for seniors to get a flu shot. Not only are seniors at a higher risk of flu related complications than the young, it is estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group, according to the CDC data collected from 2005 to 2011.

Wile said he would encourage anyone to attend the COA’s vaccination clinics next week in order to prevent themselves from being compromised by the upcoming flu season.

“We recommend that everyone get vaccinated, but especially those [compromised] groups should get vaccinated,” he said. “It is an important step in keeping our communities healthy.”

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